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Surge in homicides, teen violence worries Indianapolis police

– Indianapolis public safety officials say they’re alarmed by a surge in violence that has pushed the city to its highest homicide rate in seven years.

Nearly 120 people had died in homicides as of last week, the highest total since 2006, when 140 people were killed. This is also the first time since 2008 that the city has had more than 100 homicides in a year.

“It’s certainly alarming to us,” Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said.

These numbers aren’t the only statistics troubling officials, who’ve been trying to find ways to reduce violence in the city. Riggs said the level of violence among young people also is cause for concern.

About a dozen teens have died in the city this year in homicide-related violence, most from gunshots.

Those victims include Anthoney Warren, 15, who was found dead last weekend under a pine tree at an apartment complex. He had been shot multiple times.

Warren’s mother, Nikkita Milledge, 35, said she tried to keep her son away from trouble by signing him up for sports, but he still sometimes fell into the wrong crowd.

“We did everything that was positive. I tried everything to keep him busy,” she said. “My son did not deserve to be gunned down.”

Allen County has had 44 homicides this year, tying a 1997 record.

While Indianapolis is shifting more officers to street patrol in high-crime zones to help address the violence, Riggs also implored residents to help police fight crime.

“We can’t do this alone,” he said.

Riggs said the pace of killings has decreased from the first four months of the year, when homicides had spiked 58 percent compared with the previous year.

He said criminal homicides during the past four months were down 21 percent from the same time last year.

“And the number of nonfatal shootings and overall shootings has decreased,” Riggs said. “It is blunt to say it, but sometimes the homicide rate depends on where the bullet lands.”

City officials stress that Indianapolis is still safe for a city its size. It ranked 22nd on the FBI’s 2012 list of the nation’s most dangerous cities.

But while this year’s numbers are well below those of 1998, when 162 people died, police acknowledge the challenge ahead.

“This is difficult police work,” Riggs said. “If we’re going to be successful long term, it really has to be a community effort – everything from education to helping people.”